Meet the candidates vying to be their region's first Māori mayor

2:03 pm on 23 September 2019

As hundreds of candidates compete for a spot on their local council, some are determined to go a step further and make history, by becoming their region's first Māori mayor.

Former Minister of Māori Affairs Koro Wētere was buried today at a family urupā near Te Kuiti. His body has been lying in state at Tūrangawaewae Marae since Saturday, when he died, a day after his 83rd birthday. His tūpāpaku will be taken to Ōparure Marae before being buried at a whānau urupā.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Māori, who make up 15 percent of the population, were elected to 10 percent of council positions nationally in 2016, compared to Pākehā who made up 89 percent.

Tina Nixon is hoping to lift Māori representation at local government, by becoming Masterton's first Māori mayor.

She's holding a massive chainsaw in her campaign billboard, next to the slogan "Slash the Rates".

But that's not the only point-of-difference Ms Nixon is bringing to the race.

If elected, she said iwi would have greater involvement in council decisions.

"I'm more than happy to work with iwi, in fact, I really think that a lot of the stuff that is happening at the moment in terms of their representation tends not to be outwardly focused, it's like a tick-box exercise.

"We need to really get them more deeply involved with the really critical issues that are facing the province."

She said the region's water supply, costly rates, and inefficient council were among its most pressing problems.

For Māori, it was access to social housing and shelter.

"We have a very strong anomaly here where our local housing provider is not Housing New Zealand for social housing and low-cost housing. It's actually a community trust. That has meant that we have, currently, 400 people sitting on a waiting list.

"There is an estimation of 20-odd people who are, at any one time, homeless."

Meredith Akuhata-Brown wants to be Gisborne's first Māori mayor.

Meredith Akuhata-Brown

Meredith Akuhata-Brown Photo: Gisborne District Council

If elected, she said tackling inequities between Māori and non-Māori would be her top priority.

"Rise in homelessness, disparity despair, suicide, all of those issues. We have got some on-going, over-hanging issues from previous councils' inaction to engage with iwi."

Ms Akuhata-Brown said Gisborne's former mayor, Meng Foon, may have been able to speak te reo Māori, but she understood te ao Māori.

"I think for a long time there's been quite a beautiful pretend agreement around iwi relationships through our previous mayor, but people forgot he was Chinese.

"I come as a Māori woman so think I bring a context of what it means to have a true partnership and relationship with those who carry knowledge deeply grounded in their inherent world view as Māori."

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Irene Godkin Photo: Supplied / NPDC

Irene Godkin is vying for the top job in New Plymouth, a district which voted down a Māori ward in 2015.

The proposal was so controversial, former Mayor Andrew Judd was spat on in the street for supporting it.

Ms Godkin is now urging the people of New Plymouth to think carefully before they vote for their next mayor.

"I'd like our community to think wisely and carefully about who they would like elected to not only think about themselves but to think about our community as a whole.

"Great courage is needed for the new elected council to hear what our people in the community have spoken."

Their fate will be decided after voting closes on 12 October.

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